What Oracle Won’t Tell You about SAP HANA

Steve Lucas

Posted by Steve Lucas on April 30, 2012

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The recent and significant increase in negative messaging Oracle is attempting to spread about SAP HANA is pretty amazing. Traditionally at SAP, we’ve taken the high road when it comes to responding to these claims, as nearly 100% of what Oracle says is inaccurate and designed with one thing in mind: To protect their established revenue base. All you have to do is look at what Oracle has stated about the cloud over the last 10 years in order to understand their plan of attack for in memory:

Step 1: Halfheartedly acknowledge its presence

Step 2: Continue to push old technology

Step 3: Create fear and doubt related to new innovations

We see the same, tired response plan from Oracle emerging for in memory and SAP HANA.

Why would Oracle want to innovate anyway? There are billions of dollars’ worth of reasons why Oracle must protect their legacy database technology. Oracle has boxed itself into a corner, where they can’t afford to cannibalize their existing revenue stream, and at the same time are obligated to push massive amounts of hardware from their Sun acquisition – effectively amounting to a digital albatross hanging around their neck.

We should also let it be known that comparing this Exalytics bundle/packaged thing is just a red herring for customers. It’s an attempt to imply that HANA isn’t ready to compete with Exadata or Oracle’s core database. It’s an attempt to imply HANA is limited to analytic business scenarios.

Bottom line for Oracle, there is no incentive to truly innovate. Is innovation loosely coupling and stacking an RDBMS + TimesTen + Exadata + Endeca on expensive hardware? Clearly they would rather repackage 20 year old, tired products on refrigerator sized servers and overcharge customers for it.

In this blog, I will provide a set of facts about SAP HANA and in memory computing. I will try my best to be objective throughout and dispel some of the silliness Oracle is spreading.

Let’s take a look at the inaccurate comparisons and misnomers floating around:

  1. TimesTen is a mature database technology vs. SAP HANA
  2. Scenario comparisons of Exalytics vs. SAP HANA
  3. Pricing comparisons between HANA and Exalytics

#1: Comparing database feature/functionality:

Oracle is attempting to compare TimesTen to SAP’s HANA database. There are as many 14 attributes that they claim HANA lacks, including in-memory aggregates, multi-dimensional OLAP (MOLAP), in-memory indexes, NUMA support, etc. Ironically, most of these are cumbersome mechanisms that Oracle has patched on to their RDBMS to improve performance, but thanks to HANA’s innovation, are unnecessary overhead and maintenance tasks that customers will be glad to leave behind.


/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/horsecarriagevscar2.jpgTo me, this comparison at a very basic level is exactly the same I would have expected to hear from the horse and carriage salesmen when automobiles were first introduced. Oracle is essentially arguing that our “car” is not as good because it doesn’t come with feed for the horses, or a large bucket and shovel that customers can use to clean up their mess.

A few facts:

  • SAP HANA is a fully ACID compliant database
  • HANA’s design manages and accesses data completely in RAM allowing for speedy retrieval of data over massive volumes and addressing the BigData problems of today and the future.
  • HANA does away with the need for MOLAP, tuning structures such as multiple indexes, aggregates, materialized views, and saves the costly time to build and maintain such structures.
  • HANA leverages parallel queries to efficiently scale out across server nodes as proven in our April 10 scalability testing announcement in which 100 TB of data partitioned across 16 nodes was queried with sub-second response time. Access the white paper on this testing here
  • HANA handles both unstructured and structured data and has since its inception.
  • HANA handles both SAP and heterogeneous data equally well.
  • Oracle has not demonstrated how Exalytics with TimesTen can scale out beyond the 1TB limit and Oracle has publicly stated that the usable memory in this configuration is about 300GB.
  • HANA does in fact support ANSI standard SQL syntax, as well as MDX. Just like Oracle extended the ANSI standard with their PL/SQL procedural language, SAP has extended the ANSI standard support in HANA with SQLScript, a procedural language that allows you to write programs with logic not possible to implement in the single-statement SQL language.
  • HANA allows you to manage your data as you choose in either column stores, row stores, or a combination of the two. (Plus other stores/models) Oracle’s claim that you must load data into the row store, and then migrate to the column store, is false. Not to mention their claim that columnar data must be migrated back to the row store to be updated and then back to the column store to be queried. This is simply not how HANA works at all.

The bottom line: HANA is a next generation solution that replaces many of the tired, legacy products that Oracle continues to re-label as “innovative”.

#2: Comparison of use case scenarios between HANA and Exalytics

The easiest way to find out how HANA is transforming our customers is by looking at the customers stories on saphana.com. Anyone can publicly see proof – compelling business case after case where customers are consolidating IT systems and delivering breakthrough business value with a lower TCO than Oracle.

I have a moral objection to this whole comparison Oracle attempts, as the mere existence of Exalytics is just a diversionary tactic. Oracle doesn’t want HANA digging into their RDBMS business or Exadata for that matter, ergo the attempt I mentioned at the beginning of this blog.

Let me state (again) that SAP HANA supports analytical functions (e.g. all datamarts – e.g. T-Mobile’s use of customer micro segmentation analysis across millions of customers, across SAP and non-SAP application systems), business functions, planning functions and predictive functions (SAP BusinessObjects Predictive Analysis and Predictive Analytical Library in HANA) as well as transactions natively (e.g. upcoming SAP ERP on HANA). To do this in Exalytics you need – TimesTen, Essbase, Endeca, Oracle RDBMS, etc. This amounts to more money for Oracle and no business breakthrough for the customer…not exactly a “win-win”.

What Oracle doesn’t tell you about SAP HANA is that it addresses scenarios that were not feasible before, even with an armada of legacy tools – for example with the business function library in HANA it is now possible, using standard SQL, to execute in-database processes and functions that could not be written in SQL before.

With respect to SAP BW customers, Oracle has argued that customers would have to re-code BW applications to work on HANA. This is simply not true, and we’ve published numerous public statements from our customers that have already migrated to BW running on HANA in production.

#3 – Pricing comparisons

Oracle has tried to publicly compare Exalytics pricing to HANA and the information presented is grossly misleading. Not only is SAP HANA less expensive in up-front cost than Oracle’s Exadata + Exalytics bundle, (plus all the derivative components you’ll need to make it work) the differences in total cost of ownership are substantial.

We didn’t just innovate on the technology platform with SAP HANA, we innovated on pricing as well with a straightforward, simple to understand model based solely on the amount of data held in memory (Unlike Oracle which charges per CPU plus test and development environment fees.) A single unit of HANA (1 HANA unit = 64 GB of RAM) includes the FULL production, test and development licenses a customer needs. It also includes the data modeling and management tools needed to get data into HANA and actually use the product. Even better, HANA gets cheaper over time…the more you buy, the more the list price per unit reduces.

Our customers running SAP Business One can purchase a HANA license for as little as €2K. Any customer can purchase a license of SAP HANA Edge Edition for €40k. We also have the SAP HANA Netweaver BW edition for as little as €13k per HANA unit. (64GB of RAM = 1 unit)

I am certain Oracle would cite that hardware is extra, so let’s cover it right now. HANA servers from certified partners like Fujitsu are available for as little as $12K. That’s because we don’t force our customers into one hardware stack and then overcharge for it. We have certified partners like IBM, HP, DELL and the list goes on and on for HANA. We believe that the Intel platform, combined with the continued commoditization cycle we’ve seen for the last 40 years in computing will win…period.

Even with rapid growth of data, 95% of enterprises use between 0.5TB – 40 TB of data today. For this market, at the low end (0.5 TB) the combined cost of hardware and software is approximately $500K and at the high end the pricing is comparable to Exalytics alone today. In a recent test, we ran a 16 node cluster of 100 TB of uncompressed data, read more in the SAP HANA Performance Whitepaper.

Here’s a few facts about HANA pricing you should feel free to share with your Oracle sales rep:

  • HANA pricing is inclusive of everything you need, unlike Oracle which charges for the Database licenses & Exadata Storage as well as Grid licensing, Partitioning, OLAP, Diagnostics & Tuning Pack, Grid Control, etc.
  • Oracle charges for Non-Productive environments while SAP doesn’t for HANA. Given that SAP landscapes have anywhere from three to nine instances between development, QA, production, etc.
  • HANA operates efficiently on the most granular level of detail in your data model. No extra indices, no aggregates. Both of which are required to build in Oracle Exadata for performance, and count towards the user space. So you are paying additional fees for “fine tuning”.
  • Planning functions, Business Functions, Predictive capabilities, Full Text Search capabilities etc. are all included in the price of HANA. These are things that Exadata doesn’t offer out of the box. Again, you’ll have to purchase a number of additional Oracle products to accomplish these critical functions.
  • Runtime versions of HANA (e.g. Database Edition for BW) are priced at substantially lower prices as compared to Exadata and deliver a significantly better price/performance ratio.
  • The more HANA you buy, the less expensive the list price per unit becomes.
  • You can scale in 64 GB increments with HANA using Industry-standard servers vs. obligating yourself to Oracle’s ¼, ½ or full rack license, the hardware for which is limited to running Oracle software.
  • SAP offers a BWA to SAP HANA license conversions incentive, which is not available from Oracle today.

As I said when I started this blog, SAP doesn’t usually comment on competitor FUD, but I wanted to pause and be clear. SAP will win this market because we rely on fact and figures, real performance and customer success.

We are going to continue to deliver real innovation and let customers decide who can better help them build the future, not continue to invest in re-packaging the past!

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